Monday, November 22, 2010

90 Day Reporting - Staying Legal

Form TM. 47
 Today, Monday 22 November, was an important day for me and my ability to remain in Thailand legally.  Today was exactly 90 days from the date of my last report to the Thailand Immigration Police.

I am often asked if I live in Thailand to which I often will smile add respond "I do not live in Thailand.  I stay in Thailand. I can stay in Thailand for a year and must reapply to stay for another year every year."

I and many other foreigners in Thailand are granted Non-Immigrant Visas based upon one of two reasons.  One reason for being granted a Non-Immigration "O" Visa is for "Retirement".  To qualify for the Non-Immigrant Visa based upon retirement, a person needs to be 50 years old, have 800,000 Baht ($26,666 USD) in a Thai bank account for three months prior applying for the visa, or have a certified income of 65,000 Baht ($2,167 USD) a month. A police report from your local police department where you live outside of Thailand is required along with a Doctor's statement.  Application is then made to a Thai Embassy or Thai Consulate.  I went back to California in May 2008 to collect the required documents and submit them to the Thai Consulate in Los Angeles, California. Two days later I walked out of the Thai Consulate with the requested visa pasted into my passport.

Each year before my current visa expires, I fill out the required form, obtain the necessary documents, get the required photocopies, and get the required photographs to visit the Thailand Immigration Police.  At the same time that I apply for an extension of my Non-Immigrant Visa, I also apply for a "Re-Entry Permit" which allows me to return to Thailand without having to get a new "Non-Immigrant Visa" after each trip outside of Thailand.  The process takes about one hour at the local Immigration Police Office in Udonthani.

Another way to stay in Thailand for up to a year is to get a Non-Immigration Visa on the basis of "Marriage".  The main differences or rather benefits between staying in Thailand due to "Marriage" rather than due to "Retirement"is that the financial requirement is 400,000 Baht in a Thai bank account or 32,500 Baht a month and you do not have to be 50 years old or older.  Those are the benefits.  But the benefits are not worth the effort if you are in a financial situation which qualifies you for the retirement justification.  Yearly extensions of your Non-Immigrant Visa are processed completely at the local level - reviewed, determined, approved, and stamped on the same day at your local Immigration Police Office.  "Marriage" Non-Immigrant Visa extensions are initially reviewed, determined, and approved at the local level.  However once the local Immigration Police have determined that you qualify for the visa, they have to send their findings to Bangkok for concurrence and final approval.  This requires extra work, time, and perhaps more importantly creates the opportunity for the local Immigration Police to lose face if Bangkok were to disagree with their initial finding.  For me the risks and effort required for a Marriage based visa greatly out weigh the benefits.  I am sticking what has worked in the past - "Retirement".

In applying for an extension of a Non-Immigrant Visa due to Marriage, you need to provide just as much evidence as you did for the initial application or the previous year's request for an extension.  The evidence includes photographs of the ceremony as well as photographs of you and your spouse together in various rooms of your home.  Sometimes witness are required to sign statements or appear in person to attest to your marriage.  This is a more complicated process and definitely more risky than maintaining a "Retirement" basis - which I do.

No matter if you qualify due to "Retirement" or "Marriage" you must report to the Immigration Police for each 90 day period that you remain in Thailand.  Reporting to the Immigration Police can be done through the mail or in person.  Since processing requires that you submit your passport to the Immigration Police, I chose to not handle the reporting by mail.  I prefer to handle the reporting in person.  I also bring my wife, Duang, with me to reinforce that we, together, are committed to fully complying with the rules and regulations for my stay.

To report to the Immigration Police, you are required to fill out Form TM. 47 "Form For Alien to Notify of Staying Longer than 90 Days".  It is a straight forward and simple document to complete.  The completed form and your passport are submitted to the Immigration Police who review it, and complete the section that is stapled into your passport which notifies you of your next reporting date.  Today we were in and out of the Immigration Police Office in 5 minutes.

My next reporting date is 22 Feb 2011 if I do not leave and reenter Thailand before then.  If I do, my next reporting date will be 90 days from the date that I reenter the Kingdom of Thailand.

Having fulfilled my obligation to report, we drove into downtown Udonthani to Duang's Ear. Nose and Throat Doctor.  Duang had two ear drums repaired over year ago.  She recently started experiencing some swishing sounds in one ear. We suspected that she may have an ear infection.  We went to the doctor to have it checked out.  As I have come to realize now - there is no need to schedule an appointment at the Doctor's office let alone a specialist's clinic.  His office opened at 8:30 A.M. so we  arrived at that time and ended up being his first patient.  DuangIsaan - a Doctor helping out a patient without charging.

Upon returning home, Duang's friend from our neighborhood stopped by to take us shopping.  She shops at a store that I had never shopped at.  Duang went with her last week and was impressed.  This week was my opportunity to check it for myself.  Makro is a warehouse type facility very similar to Sam's Club or Costco back in the USA.

As the women shopped, I wandered around the store and checked out the items that were available.  I was impressed.  The most impressive thing was that for about 95% of the items, there were signs in English as well as in Thai.  At the French chain, Carrefour, where we do our weekly shopping I would estimate that only 40 % of the items have English tags.

As I wandered along a long open floor freezer, I could not help smiling to myself.  I was thinking about the scene in the film, "Forrest Gump", where "Bubba" Blue starts reciting all the ways that shrimp can be prepared - a very funny scene.  Well lying in front of me in a variety of plastic bags and paper boxes were all kinds and types of frozen shrimp or prepared shrimp.  I honestly suspect that "Bubba" may have missed a few variants that were for sale at Makro in his narrative during the movie.

After finishing my inspection of the shrimp products, I checked out the freezers of frozen seafood which were quite impressive - mussels, clams, crab, crab products, squids, trout, grouper, grunt fish, dory, cod, sea bass, mackerel. talipia, cat fish, tuna, Pacific Salmon, Norwegian Salmon, Atlantic Salmon, eels, and some fish that I was not familiar with - but the scientific name was on the label.

There were also boxes as well as bags of shark fins which did not please me all that much after having watched a Nat Geo program on the subject a couple of night's ago. I am not against eating sharks but I am against wasting an entire shark just to get the fin which has no flavor and only adds texture to a soup.

From the seafood freezers I went on to the chicken freezers.  There may have been just as varieties of chicken products as there were previous shrimp products.  There were definitely more chicken pieces and parts than shrimp parts.  There bags which contained a whole boiled chicken in a special sauce.  There was a whole chicken as in whole complete chicken including head, neck, but I am not sure about feet though I suspect the feet were included.  Seeing the chicken with head attached reminded me of a dinner party in Vietnam.  The guy seated next to me, at a wedding reception, ate 14 chicken heads - including mine.  It is always so interesting to learn if not experience the different culinary choices around the world.

At Makro there was a freezer containing beef.  The selection of beef was the best that I have found here in Isaan.

The last freezer that I looked at was the most interesting that I had checked out.  The last freezer had some items that I am certain that Americans would not find in their local market.  There were bags of frozen partridges.  There bags of frozen frog legs.  For people who maybe hankering more than a frog leg, there were bags of frozen whole frogs.  There were frozen black chickens.  At the end of the chest there were small bags of ostrich meat. There was wild boar meat along with deer meat.  I found packages of rabbit meat.  For people who might not want to eat a mammal, there was reptilian meat - CROCODILE - "Product of Thailand".   OK, maybe your Kroger, Safeway, Big Y, Stop & Shop, Piggly Wiggly or some other market may have the aforementioned products BUT ... do they have 3 pound boxes of frozen "Bamboo CATERPILLARS"?  I think that they do not!

I was impressed with the the store - its selections, varieties, and prices.  We will being some of our shopping at this interesting store.  I can foresee us trying some different dishes using ostrich, rabbit, wild boar, deer, and even the crocodile.  However it will be a very hungry day here in Isaan before we, or more specifically I, will eat the bamboo caterpillars.  I will eat fermented fish sauce and red ants before I would even consider eating the bamboo caterpillars.

So all in all, today which could have been a rather mundane day managed to evolve into another exciting as well as educational experience here in Isaan.


  1. >I will eat fermented fish sauce and red ants before I would even consider eating the bamboo caterpillars.<

    Actually, bamboo caterpillars (or bamboo Larvae) are quite delicious, when deepfried in fresh oil, they taste kind of nutty. I've eaten them on numerous occasions. But the oil must be fresh otherwise they taste just like rancid oil. And if you cannot get bamboo larvae, you could try deepfried silkworms.

    Red ants are as far as I know not eaten as such, but it is the eggs of red ants that are eaten.

    By coincidence, Dorothy just posted a recipe from the cookbook, "Food from Northern Laos" on her blog, of a bamboo stew which uses a cup of red ant eggs. You may have eaten it while you were in luang Namtha...

    Note: red ant eggs are seasonal, and hard to procure outside the season. I know, I tried to chase them in order to get a photo for the ingredients section of the book.

    Makro also has a good range of New Zealand and Australian Lamb

  2. I think that I would eat the red ants in fish before the red ant's eggs and fish or the bamboo catepillars. However deep fried with a copious amount of beer to wash them down might get me to consider the catepillars